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Pymatuning State Park in Pennsylvania

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

I love Pymatuning. It is several lakes all in the same place. The western part of the lake has the Ohio and Pennsylvania state lines running down the middle. In this section, running from the PA park office to the PA 285/Ohio 85 causeway its like a huge deep-water estuary. Along the shore are numerous campsites, picnic areas, marinas and boat launches. On the PA side there are many private homes.

There are a couple of islands, most notably "Stockers Island". When you are out in the middle (Its not quite a mile across), you have Ohio on one side, and PA on the other. You can access both the Ohio park office and the PA park office from the water, both states have a park on the reservoir. There is a fair amount of boat traffic in season but there is a 10 horsepower limit; lots of sail boats.

Its fun to paddle up the main channel and then duck into little coves where picturesque sail boats bob at moor in the many marinas on the Ohio side. A little piece of New England right here in Western PA. But my favorite part of the lake is the extreme Northern shore. In this area are two natural areas, Black Jack Swamp and Clark Island. Black Jack Swamp is a 725 acre area ,set aside for no development. There are numerous coves and inlets there. Little streams drain from the actual swamp into the lake here. With a little skill and some perseverance you can actually push your way back into the swamp quite a ways.

This area abounds in wildlife, there are eagles and osprey, beaver and muskrat, deer and squirrels and more waterfowl than a man can count in one day. And best of all Loons! I know many people do not care for seagulls, but I do-and Pymatuning abounds in them. There is also a growing population of a less than desirable immigrant...cormorants. They don't bother me a bit, but I know my fisherman friends are not happy with the competition.

A very short paddle from the Black Jack swamp is another great Natural Area, Clark Island. Clark Island is one of my favorite places on earth, I honestly believe the state should let me live there and protect the Cormorants and feed the Muskrats...or something! Clark Island is 161 acres containing a mature White Pine forest as well as a variety of hardwoods. There is actually a small pond in the middle of the island. It is surrounded by wide sandy beaches that are perfect for landing upon and walking the beach, seeing what treasures the waves have deposited.

I spent one of the nicest afternoons of my life under a poncho shelter, I constructed in an abandoned duck blind on Clark Island. I was waiting out a storm that blew up the lake and as I sat and brewed up a mug of tea I watched the waves pounding the was awesome.

That brings up another Pymatuning point. The weather, it can turn bad Pymatuning is usually pretty tame, but when the big waves are white capping its a different lake. The scariest day I ever had in a Kayak was on Pymatuning. I had driven up for a paddle but when I got there I saw the high winds had the lake white capping. The waves were big and it was November (I just hate swimming in PA, in November.) but being eager and not particularly smart I decided to launch. My plan was to launch from the Wilson boat ramp in the extreme North west corner of the lake, and staying in the "wind shadow" of the numerous Islands in this area head down wind to the "spill way". Then hug the shore for the return into the wind leg back to my car.

I left Wilson, looped down wind of Clark Island, then to Harris Island(There is a great Beaver Lodge here),Then to Whaley Island and then things went.....bad. It was my plan to cross from Whaley staying in the wind shadow to Glenn Island then down to the Spillway. Not to far out from Whaley I became completely exposed to the full force of the wind. It was obvious that if I tried to maneuver to loop around Whaley I was going down. I ended up running with the full force of the wind, and at times the waves were above me in the kayak. During this time I talked to God...a lot. I not only promised to never "do this" again but apologized for things I had done, and some things I had only thought of doing. After what seemed like hours, I was right off the Spillway, and watching the waves crash against it, knew it would not be a good thing to get to close.

I made my way as close to it as I dared, to the north shore and followed the shore all the way back to Wilson's. The Spillway I speak of is where Harts town Road crosses the lake. On the opposite side of the Spillway from my adventure is the PA Game Commissions waterfowl propagation area. Or as I heard one father tell his child one day "That's where ducks come from." The Spillway is a tourist attraction with awesome views of the lake and a vender that lets you buy bread to feed to the millions of carp, and greedy ducks that have learned where to go for a free handout.

Pymatuning is a Seneca Indian word for "The crooked mouth mans dwelling place." the Seneca had conquered the Erie Indians and became masters of what then, was a huge swamp. Early white settlers avoided the area as that it was unfit for farming, contained dangerous beast like Bears and Mountain Lions and lots and lots of mosquitoes. Over the years several plans to dam or drain the swamp were examined and dismissed. Finally in 1931, 7000 men began work to create what we now know as the Pymatuning Reservoir.


There are numerous state and private campgrounds on both the Ohio and Pennsylvania sides. The PA State park has cabin rentals. Reservations can be made by calling 1-888-PA-PARKS.The towns of Linesville, Jamestown, Espyville and Andover Ohio are all in easy drive from the lake. There are numerous boat launching areas around the lake.


A valid PA or Ohio state registration or launch permit is required on your boat, each state recognizes the others. Camping permits are available in camping areas.


The park is accessible by US Route #6,US #322,PA#18,PA#285 is located in Crawford Co. PA, and Ashtabula Co. Ohio. The park office (PA side), is located just 1.5 miles north of Jamestown ,PA. of US#322.


Dept. of Conservation and Natural resources (PA)724-932-3141

Camping, 1-888-PA-PARKS

Ohio State Park 440-293-6329

Trip Details

  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location